Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Distant Sounds's ten most memorable operatic experiences of 2016

It’s easy to come up with my top 3, less easy to put the rest in any meaningful order, so I’ll leave it at that. Titles hotlink to my original reviews where they appear online, on this blog or at (two, the Rheingold and Lohengrin, won’t appear until the March 2017 Wagner Journal).

1 Der Ring des Nibelungen – Bayreuth Festival
(dir. Castorf)

   My first return to Bayreuth after a quarter-century's absence was made by the fourth year of Frank Castorf’s ‘post-dramatic’ Ring – a gripping monument to contemporary theatre, superbly cast – especially the Brünnhilde of Catherine Foster and Wotan/Wanderer of John Lundgren – and conducted with fire by the veteran Marek Janowski, belatedly making his Bayreuth debut.

2 Der Traumgörge (Zemlinsky) – Staatstheater Hannover

A rare revival of Zemlinsky’s long-forgotten second opera was given a memorable staging by Hannover Opera, with Robert Künzli (left) magnificent in the title role and some glorious playing from the pit.

3 Faust – Oper Stuttgart
(dir. Castorf).

Yes, more Frank Castorf, and very much from the same cut as his Ring. Another miracle of stagecraft and rethinking, completely changing one’s view of Gounod’s French Romantic warhorse. 

And in no particular order:

Oedipe (Enescu) – Royal Opera House, London.
A first staged encounter with what must be one of the major operatic achievements of the 20th century

Simplicius Simplicissimus (Hartmann) – Independent Opera @ Sadler’s Wells, London. Triumphant first UK staging of Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s hard-hitting 1930s opera.

The Importance of Being Earnest (Barry) – Royal Opera @ Barbican Theatre, London. Hilarious revival of the ROH production.

Das Rheingold – Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe (dir. Hermann). Karlsruhe’s four-director Ring launched with this opener that manages to tell the whole story of the cycle.

Elektra – Landestheater Detmold
My first introduction to this company – a high-powered performance in a tiny theatre.

Lohengrin – Aalto Theater Essen (dir. Gürbaca)
The first production by Tatjana Gürbaca that has worked for me, with first-rate musical contribution.

Otello – Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Düsseldorf (dir. Thalheimer).
Minimalist staging that gets to the heart of the tragedy.

And finally, two turkeys:

Holofernes (Reznicek) – Theater Bonn – an overblown production of a very poor piece.

Der König Kandaules (Zemlinsky) – Flanders Opera – an even more overblown production that spoilt a very fine piece.

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